SOON THE APOSTLES WILL SEE JESUS NO MORE
THE APOSTLES’ GRIEF WILL TURN INTO JOY
Jesus and the apostles are poised to leave the upper room where they held the Passover meal. Having given them considerable admonition, Jesus adds: “I have said these things to you so that you may not be stumbled.” Why was such a warning appropriate? He tells them: “Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.”
That may be troubling news for the apostles. Although Jesus had said earlier that the world would hate them, he had not directly told them that they would be killed. Why not? “I did not tell you these things at first, because I was with you,” he says. (John 16:4) Now he is forearming them before he departs. This may help them to avoid being stumbled later.
Jesus continues: “I am going to the One who sent me; yet not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” Earlier that evening they had inquired about where he was going. (John 13:36; 14:5; 16:5) But now, shaken by what he said about persecution, they are absorbed in their own grief. Thus they fail to ask further about the glory that awaits him or what that would mean for true worshippers. Jesus observes: “Because I have told you these things, grief has filled your hearts.”
Then Jesus explains: “It is for your benefit that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) Only by Jesus’ dying and going to heaven can his disciples receive the holy spirit, which he can send as a helper to his people anywhere on earth.
The holy spirit “will give the world convincing evidence concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment.” (John 16:8) Yes, the world’s failure to exercise faith in God’s Son will be exposed. Jesus’ ascension to heaven will provide convincing evidence of his righteousness and will demonstrate why Satan, “the ruler of this world,” merits adverse judgment.
“I still have many things to say to you,” Jesus continues, “but you are not able to bear them now.” When he pours out the holy spirit, it will guide them to an understanding of “all the truth,” and they will be able to live by that truth.
The apostles are puzzled by Jesus’ further statement: “In a little while you will see me no longer, and again, in a little while you will see me.” They ask one another what he means. Jesus realizes that they want to question him about this, so he explains: “Most truly I say to you, you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be grieved, but your grief will be turned into joy.” (John 16:16, 20) When Jesus is killed the next afternoon, the religious leaders rejoice, but the disciples grieve. Then their grief changes into joy when Jesus is resurrected! And their joy continues when he pours out upon them God’s holy spirit.
Comparing the apostles’ situation to that of a woman during birth pangs, Jesus says: “When a woman is giving birth, she has grief because her hour has come, but when she has given birth to the child, she remembers the tribulation no more because of the joy that a man has been born into the world.” Jesus encourages his apostles, saying: “You also, now you have grief; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Up to this time, the apostles have never made requests in Jesus’ name. He now says: “In that day you will make request of the Father in my name.” Why are they to do so? Not because the Father is reluctant to respond. In fact, Jesus says: “The Father himself has affection for you, because you have had affection for me . . . as God’s representative.”
Jesus’ encouraging words to the apostles may have emboldened them to affirm: “By this we believe that you came from God.” That conviction will soon be tested. In fact, Jesus describes what is just ahead: “Look! The hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when each one of you will be scattered to his own house and you will leave me alone.” Yet he assures them: “I have said these things to you so that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:30-33) No, Jesus is not abandoning them. He is sure that they too can be world conquerors, just as he is, by their faithfully accomplishing God’s will despite the attempts of Satan and his world to break their integrity.